Talking Sleeve

August 7th, 2012 by ewilfred

One of the latest projects at the EDGE Lab is the Talking Sleeve. This post will document past projects that have led up to the making of the sleeve.

It all started with this:









The blue cardboard computer stand shown above was originally created as an experiment. The EDGE Lab wanted to see what would happen when a computer that was accessible at child level was placed in a childcare setting. This computer stand was designed in a way that more than one child could access the computer at the same time. They weren’t sure what impact this would have once it was in the classroom.

An educator in the classroom noticed a high level of engagement from a student with special needs. This observation sparked the idea of a custom keyboard made specifically for this child, but it can be used for anyone that has difficulty with their fine motor skills.

The first adapted keyboard was made out of cardboard and custom buttons that are larger in size than a traditional keyboard. The keys on this first keyboard were close together. This made it difficult for the child to accurately press the keys she wanted.

Below is the second version of the keyboard with the keys spaced out more.








The different cardboard pieces would be laid out and fit around where the child is sitting.  This design also had some problems and needed to be reworked. Even though the keys were spaced out enough, the vast size of this adapted keyboard made it difficult to reach around to all the keys.

Here is one part of the keyboard hooked up to a laptop.










From this, an idea emerged that would change the use of single letters to spell out words into using whole words when a button or key was pressed. The staff at the childcare centre discussed the child’s interest in a soft toy that said words when it was squeezed. With this information, the EDGE Lab  decided to go into a slightly different direction and make soft buttons made of fabric. When the buttons are squeezed it would say its assigned word and display the word on a small screen.









Here is a video of lab technician, Rubina making the buttons:

This was a big leap that went from an adapted keyboard to a basic communicative device.

The EDGE Lab is currently working on the talking sleeve. This project builds on the fabric button idea. The goal is to create a wearable sweater that allows the person wearing it to press on different patches on the sleeve that would voice and display different words.

The sleeve itself has gone through it’s own set of stages. The picture below shows patches that were hand sewn with conductive thread which connects to snap buttons. The buttons then snap onto the circuit board.










Some tweaks have been made to this. The EDGE Lab has found a way to sew the conductive thread on with a sewing machine. Instead of snap buttons, small magnets are sewn in to the end of the sleeve to attach to the circuit board. This allows for an easier disconnection when it is time to wash the garment.

Here is a short video:

This video is only of the circuit board. The points that are touched mimics what would happen when the patches are pressed on the sleeve. This version has more words than the previous one, which only had 4 words. The circuit board has been programmed to page up or down to access more words. The voice can also be programmed to the voice of your choice.

Here is a picture of the part that connects the sleeve to the circuit board using small magnets instead of snap buttons.











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